Several years ago, I attended a women’s conference and one of the speakers spoke on how sometimes we make plans for our life, only to have them over turned by the curves and bumps on the road we are traveling – or planned to travel. Kind of like planning to take a trip to Holland and unexpectantly ending up in Italy.
This is my version of that story…
Welcome to Parkinson’s Disease
Life is much like planning for a fabulous trip. A once-in-a-lifetime-around-the-world excursion.
Life and its expectations. You plan for them – college, marriage, babies, moving, retirement. It’s all can be like planning for that fabulous get away to somewhere like say… Italy.
You buy a bunch of guidebooks. You do your Google research for the best places to stay, sights for you to see, airfare specials for you to book, and more. You make your wonderful plans. You will go to the coliseum. See Micheangelo’s David. RIde the gondolas in Venice. And perhaps you will educate yourself by learning some handy and witty phrases in Italian. Meanwhile, feeling unusually tired lately, you hope the trip will rejuvenate you and you will have energy to see and do it all.
You cannot wait for all the planning to come together as you excitedly count the days until your departure. All the weeks, months, and maybe even years of anticipation and hours of preparation lead up to that moment. The day you leave. Your bags are packed with everything you will need and it’s a no brainer that everything is going to be perfect as you spend the next three months abroad.
After all, you planned for this.
Tripping as you step onto the plane, you then find your seat and settle in, all the while hoping that no one saw you almost fall. Now shaking (something you’ve noticed you do even when you’re not nervous), you close your eyes but find it difficult to sleep, chalking it up excitement. Several hours later, the plane lands and you can hardly wait to breathe in the wonderful, warm air of Italy. The flight attendant comes on over the loud speaker and tells you that you may now take off your seat belt and in a warm and friendly voice adds, “Welcome to Parkinson’s disease!”
“Parkinson’s disease?!” you say. “What do you mean, Parkinson’s disease? I signed up for a vacation in Italy. I planned for a vacation in Italy. I’ve spent the last ten years thinking about my vacation in Italy! Dang-nabbit!!! I’M SUPPPOSED TO BE VACATIONING IN ITALY!!!”
Now, the important thing to remember is that you haven’t been taken to a horrible, disgusting, filthy place, full of pestilence, famine and the like. You have just been re-directed to a different place in life.
So, now you must go out and buy new guidebooks on this new season in life called Parkinson’s disease. And, you must learn a whole new language. Words like basal ganglia and dopamine and dystonia and so on. So much more. And you will be meeting a whole new group of people that you never would have met if you had gone to Italy. Other people who have been on a journey with Parkinson’s. Patients. Caregivers. Movement disorder specialists, to name a few.
This is not what you had envisioned. Not what you had dreamed of or imagined. It’s a different place. A place where disease is present. A place where now all other things in your life have been, could or will be affected. It may now be a place where your marriage changes. Retirement may come sooner. Your kids may have a hard time understanding. This life you are now living with Parkinson’s disease may have thrown you for a loop. It certainly isn’t what you had hoped for. This life you are now living is slower paced than that trip you had planned to Italy and it is certainly filled with many unknowns, but after you have caught your breath and looked around, you begin to notice that Parkinson’s has something, in a round about way, something to offer…
You notice that Parkinson’s disease affords the opportunities to see things differently. It offers the ability to deepen your level of compassion and understanding. Parkinson’s disease allows you to meet many new and different people you would never have met if you had gone to Italy. It gives rise to a deeper faith, thereby strengthening your relationship with your Creator.
And yet, everyone you know is busy coming to and from Italy – that place that you had always dreamed of going to and maybe even spending the rest of your life there. They all seem to be bragging about the wonderful life they’re living there, or at least the wonderful time they’re having as they visit. And for the rest of your life you will think to yourself, “Yes, that’s where I was supposed to go. That’s what I had planned.”
And the pain of that loss – that dream – may never, ever go away because that loss is a very, very significant loss. But, if you spend the rest of your life (or even a part of it), mourning the fact that life isn’t exactly the way you had planned – that you didn’t get to go to Italy and you ended up on a journey with Parkinson’s disease instead – than you may never be free to enjoy the very special blessings that this life has to offer. So…
Welcome to Parkinson’s disease.
It’s not what I had planned either but here I am. I would much rather have been able to stay on course and made my way to Italy and writing you from atop the Eiffel Tower, but alas, my Pilot had other plans. So – having come here before you or perhaps feeling a bit better than you are feeling today on your journey, I am here to walk with you, beside you, and together under that guide of our trustworthy Pilot, we will forge through this unplanned and unimagined journey and when we get to the end of this road, may it be said of us… “Well done, good and faithful travelers.”
(That’s the new plan, anyhow!)